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Choosing the Right Ink

Choosing the right ink combinations can have a dramatic effect on your finished product. Use this handy ink guide to help you make the correct ink selection.
  • Black ink, as you might expect, is the most common and least expensive ink.

  • Spot colors and tints are printed with premixed inks. You can choose from among thousands of different spot-color inks. A spot color printed at 100% is a solid color and has no dot pattern. A tint is a lightened spot or process color and is created by printing smaller halftone dots of the base color.

  • Process colors are reproduced by printing overlapping dots (halftone screens) of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) inks. Since CMYK inks are translucent, they absorb some colors and reflect others. To create blue, for example, you combine cyan dots and magenta dots. Your eyes merge the cyan and magenta dots to perceive the color blue. Process (CMYK) printing gives us the ability to simulate photographic images using just four basic ink colors.

  • Metallic inks use metallic powders to give a pleasing metallic luster. Metallic inks can often add an extra sparkle or touch of class to your printing project.

  • Magnetic inks were developed to increase the speed and efficiency of handling bank checks. These inks are made with pigments which can be magnetized after printing, and the printed characters are later “recognized” by electronic reading equipment.

  • Fluorescent inks are naturally bright inks. They are used for jobs of a semi-permanent nature, such as labeling, packaging and direct mail.

  • Varnish is used as a coating over printing to protect the printing and increase gloss.


Here are some guidelines for specifying colors.

Use spot colors when
  • You need three or fewer colors and you will not be reproducing process-color photographs.
  • You want the limited color variety you get from one or two-spot colors and tints of those colors.
  • You want to print varnishes or special inks, such as metallic or fluorescent spot inks.
  • You want to print logos or other graphic elements that require precise color matching.
Use process colors when
  • You need more than three colors in your design. In general, printing with process inks costs less than printing with three or more spot inks.
  • You want to reproduce scanned color photographs or color artwork that can only be reproduced with process colors.
Choosing the right ink combinations can have a dramatic effect on your finished product. Use this handy ink guide to help you make the correct ink selection.
  • Black ink, as you might expect, is the most common and least expensive ink.

  • Spot colors and tints are printed with premixed inks. You can choose from among thousands of different spot-color inks. A spot color printed at 100% is a solid color and has no dot pattern. A tint is a lightened spot or process color and is created by printing smaller halftone dots of the base color.

  • Process colors are reproduced by printing overlapping dots (halftone screens) of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) inks. Since CMYK inks are translucent, they absorb some colors and reflect others. To create blue, for example, you combine cyan dots and magenta dots. Your eyes merge the cyan and magenta dots to perceive the color blue. Process (CMYK) printing gives us the ability to simulate photographic images using just four basic ink colors.

  • Metallic inks use metallic powders to give a pleasing metallic luster. Metallic inks can often add an extra sparkle or touch of class to your printing project.

  • Magnetic inks were developed to increase the speed and efficiency of handling bank checks. These inks are made with pigments which can be magnetized after printing, and the printed characters are later “recognized” by electronic reading equipment.

  • Fluorescent inks are naturally bright inks. They are used for jobs of a semi-permanent nature, such as labeling, packaging and direct mail.

  • Varnish is used as a coating over printing to protect the printing and increase gloss.


Here are some guidelines for specifying colors.

Use spot colors when
  • You need three or fewer colors and you will not be reproducing process-color photographs.
  • You want the limited color variety you get from one or two-spot colors and tints of those colors.
  • You want to print varnishes or special inks, such as metallic or fluorescent spot inks.
  • You want to print logos or other graphic elements that require precise color matching.
Use process colors when
  • You need more than three colors in your design. In general, printing with process inks costs less than printing with three or more spot inks.
  • You want to reproduce scanned color photographs or color artwork that can only be reproduced with process colors.


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